Building 640 at the Presidio in San Francisco

Building 640 at the Presidio in San Francisco
Information Source for the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kiyoshi Fujiwara's Story

The person I transcribed was Kiyoshi Fujiwara. Fujiwara talked about his life before the war, during the war, and after. He was born in Sacramento and his mother died when he was five years old. He moved to Hiroshima, Japan during that time because his father thought it would be ideal for him to do so, even though, according to Fujiwara, his father could take care of him and his three sisters. Fujiwara completed both elementary and high school in Japan. When he was seventeen he decided he wanted to go back to America. He mostly wanted to return to avoid being drafted into the service and wanted to see his father again since. Back in America, Fujiwara did one semester of continuation high school before the war. Fujiwara learned about Pearl Harbor at a friend's place when coming home from church on Sunday. His father thought he should go back to Japan during this and one of the conditions to do so was to renounce your citizenship. Fujiwara did this, but in spite of doing so ended up at the interment camp, Tule Lake. He was there for four years and held several different jobs. One of his first jobs was a dishwasher and someone then told there was an opening position at a slaughterhouse. So, he went and worked there until the whole crew and including himself got fired for unknown reasons. He then worked at a maintenance shop where he worked on and monitored all the water coming in from the camp. While he was there Fujiwara learned English from hanging around with Nisei Japanese kids. He was one of the lasts groups to leave the camp.

Out of the camp Fujiwara went and first worked in Chicago, where his cousin was, for two years at a factory. He then worked in the fields picking tomatoes and later took a test for a government federal job. He had a clerical job for six months until he decided it wasn't for him and quit, but then took another test for the Air force and got a job as a mechanic. During this time he was battling to get his citizenship back, since you have to be a citizen to work for the government. He ended up paying three hundred dollars to regain his citizenship. He ended up quitting his job at the Air force and went to work at a steel factory where he spent the rest of his career. He met his wife through the same church and got married in 1952. Fujiwara and his wife have two kids who have, along with their grandchildren, accompanied them on several pilgrimages to the camp. Fujiwara has gone to four pilgrimages to the camp.

Transcribing Fujiwara’s story was a very enlightening experience. I have learned about the political situation of Japan from a citizen’s perspective and being stuck in two worlds. I also have a better understanding of what happened at the internment camps.

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